Eastman student plans to use musical talent to support Ukrainian cause

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC has an update on the recent Eastman School of Music graduate who returned to his homeland in Ukraine last month. Kostia Lukyniuk made it safely from Kyiv to his hometown in western Ukraine.

News10NBC Anchor Brett Davidsen spoke with him via Zoom on Friday, where he told us about his plans to use his musical talent to support the Ukrainian cause.

When we last met with Kostia Lukyniuk in person in late January, he was preparing to leave Rochester to share his passion for music—planning live stage performances of his unique violin style throughout his native Ukraine. At the time, he seemed unfazed by the growing threats of a Russian invasion.

Now he’s closer—much closer—to the situation.

"It just never occurred to me that it would actually get this bad," Lukyniuk said.

He watches as Russians invade his country and has witnessed the destruction. Up until a few days ago he was in Kyiv but packed up his belongings and headed out to his home city in Western Ukraine—a region that has, thus far, avoided the interest of Vladimir Putin’s troops.

"We were driving at night through all of this stuff, destroyed Russian tanks and our tanks and the barricades and stuff like that. That’s the center of Kyiv," he said.

Where he is now is as close to safety as he can get. The government has barred men 18 to 60 from leaving the country. Many have enlisted.

"My uncle is fighting on the front lines. Some of my friends, close friends from music school here, are fighting and I’m checking on them," Lukyniuk added.

Lukyniuk said he’s determined to do his part for Ukraine and says he’s grateful for the courage of those fighting, but he said the best way he knows how to help, is by continuing to play his violin.

"I just don’t see myself in a combat role, and during times of crisis, there are so many different roles," he said. "I want to do what I do and play music and spread the message to become sort of like an amplifier to what’s going on."

Lukyniuk is in close contact with friends here in Rochester and is organizing music fundraisers—which he says will go toward humanitarian supplies that he plans to hand-deliver. He’s also looking to do free concerts there for refugee children—whose lives he’s seen torn apart.

"I’m just heartbroken for those kids and I want to make sure they have at least something they can shift their focus to at least for a couple of minutes and just distract them with something like art, something I can do," Lukyniuk said.